and the
Citizens Economic Research Foundation

July 15, 2005

Another assault by the enemies of the petition process

A bill to kill the initiative petition process is being polled today in the Election Laws Committee.

It pretends to be a "good government" bill, though it is opposed by "good government’ groups who respect the voters and sometimes use the petition process themselves.

It pretends to prevent fraud, but means to prevent issues from reaching the voters.

Fact # One. Fraud has never been a problem with initiative petitions. People who sign the petitions always have the official summary, drafted by the Attorney General’s office, in front of them. When the issue in on the ballot, voters have access to its language and pro/con arguments in the Secretary of State’s voter information booklet.

Fact # Two. The only "problem" with initiative petitions is that, once on the ballot, they sometimes win, thereby asserting the will of the voters against the will of some special interest groups.

CLT has been involved in many petition drives, both alone and in coalitions. CLT staffers have collected tens of thousands of signatures. We know how the process works, and we know that this bill will make it impossible to get any issue on the ballot ever again.

We appreciate the opposition to this bill by Secretary of State William Galvin, especially his very valid concern that signers will be harassed by opponents. We know from experience that this will happen – and even his proposed language creating criminal penalties for this behavior won’t help. During a recent signature challenge to a CLT petition, opponents told signers they were "Barbara Anderson"; there was no conceivable way to identify or prosecute those liars.  (See: CLT News Advisory, Apr. 13, 1998 -- "Those Subpoenas Are Not Ours!")

The group that was opposing that CLT petition included Arline Isaacson, who in her role as lobbyist for the Mass. Teachers Association has fought the initiative petition process for years. In her role as lobbyist for gay marriage, she is supporting this bill. As she and her allies wanted to keep the income tax rollback off the ballot by any means whatsoever, she and other allies want to use this bill to keep the anti-gay marriage petitioners from getting signatures this fall.

This Election Laws bill is a weak and phony front for hatred of the petition process that brings issues into the public arena for debate. The gay marriage issue, and all issues, would be better served by both sides expressing confidence in their position and trusting themselves to sell it to the voters – instead of expending resources preventing the campaign debate and driving a stake through the heart of the last best vox populi. Legislators should kill this bill, not the initiative process.

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